🦄 vol. 53
matt chats about tiktok's rise and evolution ⬆️
tiktok to the tik-top ⬆️
In a bittersweet moment, millions watched on as Serena Williams graced the tennis court for the last time, after bowing out of the US Open in the third round. She will leave an indelible mark on the game, having won 23 Grand Slams, spending 319 weeks as the best female player in the world and retiring as the highest paid female athlete of all time (~$435m combined on- and off-court earnings). A lesser documented part of her life’s success is that in which she has reinvented herself as a venture capitalist, raising a ~$111m fund that has invested primarily in female founders and founders of colour. Her golden touch obviously extends to VC, because she’s backed 16 unicorns already.
Where are you going with the analogy? 🤔
I’ll be honest, it’s a little bit of a streeeetch🤸♂️, but bear with me for a second. The short-form video app, whose success is already well-documented in our archives 🦄, has been subject to a meteoric rise. The proverbial new kid on the block reached one billion users faster than all of its predecessors and now boasts over one billion daily active users (DAU), sitting above its peers as the most downloaded application since its introduction.
The secret sauce? 🥫
…well, the algorithm of course. Without going into granular detail, TikTok’s proprietary algorithm was the first that was informed by user attention, rather than explicit interest shown by one’s social circle. It’s best described visually:
The algorithm is so valued, that when Trump ordered the sale of the TikTok’s American operations, ByteDance refused to include it in the deal. In vol. 43 🦄, I looked at a few of the reasons the algorithm is so addictive. But we diverge…
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em… 😏
As your mom used to quip when your cousin arrived in the same t-shirt as you, imitation is the ultimate form of flattery. And boy, have platforms been doing their level-best to offer something remotely similar to TikTok’s addictive short-form video content.
Social networks are no strangers to copying their classmates’ homework:
Vine pioneered short-form video with 6-second clips, but has since been leapfrogged by the competitors that followed (see: copied).
Instagram was, by no means, the first photo-sharing platform. But rudimentary filters, coupled with product velocity, have seen it cement itself amongst the giants.
Snap developed “Stories”, which saw Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn, follow suit.
Twitter spun off Spaces as a response to the short-lived Clubhouse (remember them?).
Funnily enough, chief-copycat Zuck’s TurnItIn report has been flagged again, with Instagram recently introducing “Dual”. In what seems to be the most flagrant act of plagiarism for a long while, Instagram has copied BeReal on the back of its success (which Sash predicted in vol. 38 🦄).
And on the back of TikTok’s success, many have looked to the product to improve their own. Google has played with the idea of offering short-form video in search results and even Amazon is testing a TikTok-like feature to show shoppers products in video format. In reality, very few ideas are truly novel, and the value is in execution rather than ideation. And it seems that TikTok may soon be gatecrashing some incumbents’ parties.
In fact… 👀
…it looks like they're going to start eating other companies’ lunches. And here’s where my analogy comes full circle:
Both Serena and TikTok sit atop their respective perches, as number one in their fields (at least for now). And just like Serena, it seems TikTok may be reinventing themselves (on more than one front too).
Those who trawl through patent applications took note of TikTok’s recent filing that would allow users to “purchase, play, share, download music, songs, albums, lyrics” as well as “live stream audio and video”. Already, close to 75% of TikTok users in the United States use the platform to discover new artists, and 67% said they were more likely to seek out a song on a streaming platform if they heard it on the app. In closing the loop, they could allow for creation, discovery, propagation and collation of music, and have a slice of the music streaming pie.
But there may be a bigger story to this… 😳
When you're looking for an answer, where's the first place you go to? Google, right? Well, Gen-Z's don't quite feel the same way. More than 40% of Gen Z’s prefer the visually-rich form of TikTok or Instagram in seeking information, be it a recipe or a cool new restaurant. What may seem like an innocent quirk amongst the youth could seriously come to harm Google’s main products: Search and Discovery. And with ~81% of Alphabet’s entire revenue generated from Ads, this cultural shift may serve as the canary in the coal mine.
In the future… 🔮
Our kids may well laugh at the fact that we used Google Maps to find restaurants near us, just as we laugh at how our parents whipped out physical maps on a road trip. For now, at least, TikTok is more of a headache for Google, rather than an existential threat.
But one thing is for sure: the TikTok story continues.
karl was intrigued to hear that a popular chinese gaming company appointed an ai robot as ceo of their 3000+ employee company
sash was shocked to see footage of the (climate change-induced) floods in pakistan